Sunday, August 30, 2009

First Full Week at Home

In some ways I can't believe we have been home 1 week and in others, it seems like we have been home a lot longer. Bella continues to do amazingly well. She is still sleeping about 10 hours at night and is also taking a 2-3 hour nap each day. She doesn't exaclty want to take a nap, but she does. She is loving her new toys and has already worn the batteries out on one of her favorites (the gear toy). She is almost running and she is trying to jump. So cute because she squats all the way down to the ground and goes straight up with all her might, but only comes off the floor about a quarter of an inch. She is also eating like she is training for a food eating contest. She is really going to town. She is feeding herself with both a fork and spoon. I think this is fairly new for her, but she is going a great job at it. I know of some foods that she loved before we got her, but she LOVES Vitamin D milk, yogurt, pudding, sweet potatoes, watermelon, pancakes, corn, peas, ham, oatmeal, and noodles. The boys love eating dry cereal in the mornings. They usually leave the bowls somewhere in the living room unfinished. Bella enjoys stealing the bowls and finishing the cereal for them. She acts so proud to be carrying the bowl around the house. This morning for breakfast she ate a bowl of oatmeal and then ate 4-5 small pancakes with syrup. I did not think she was going to stop!
She has also enjoyed the pool this week. It was finally warm enough and she wants in it ALL the time. Good thing she can't get out of the house on her own. If we go in the back yard early in the morning, I have to divert her attention away from the pool because she goes straight for it. She wants to jump off the steps straight in the water, but the swimmies don't hold her above the water. Not sure why because she doesn't weigh anything. I am going to have to look for something else to keep her head above the water.

Bella has gotten to meet her wonderful church family as well. We have gone to church the last 2 weeks since we have been back and she has loved the worship time. She just claps and dances to the music. Sometimes I can't believe she is actually with us .... here.

We have also gotten into the full swing of school, preschool, soccer and Tae Kwon Do. Keenan got his stitches out yesterday and was once again a very brave little guy. Michael took him and Bella to the appointment and he said they were so good. He told Keenan if he was good, he would get him a prize. I guess the whole time the dr. was taking the stitches out Keenan never cried, but said "owe, owe, owe."

Today is Aidan's 7th birthday!!!! I can't believe my 4 lb. 10 oz. baby is 7! Their birthday party is not until next weekend, but they got the presents we got them. Keenan's 4th birthday is Tuesday, so we went ahead and gave him an early present also. They had a blast with their new remote controlled stunt cars (Thanks Emy for the suggestion!). Aidan told me this morning that he gets to do whatever he wants on his birthday. I told him I wasn't sure about that and he said, "Mommy, you got to do what you wanted on Mother's Day and daddy got to do what he wanted on Father's Day, so today is my day ... I get to do whatever I want." Can't argue about the logic of that.

One thing the boys still need is their space. They sometimes go hide in their room and close the door. Here is a picture of them hunkered down playing the DS.
This is just a cute picture of Bella in her jammies this morning. We got these in China at a store in Guangzhou that helps support operations for orphans. Doesn't she look cute?!

Wednesday we head to Children's Hospital for her evaluation by the International Adoption Clinic. Please pray for her and us as this is supposed to be a 4 hour appointment where she meets many many doctors. She won't have her appointment with the Cranio Facial team until October to see what the plan is about her palate repair. Let the doctor's visits begin!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Home Alone with the kids and this happens ...

Monday morning started out great. I took Aidan to school, met his teacher, came home, Michael had Keenan and Bella up and they were playing. All was well. Michael headed off to work, but wanted to stop and get his hair cut and get his cell phone fixed since it died in China. All was well. I got Bella and Keenan's teeth and hair brushed. I started to get them dressed so we could go on a walk. All was well. I walked into the bathroom to put something away and heard the most horrific crash ... bang ... I don't know what you want to call it. I came out and Keenan was laying on the floor, holding his head. He had tripped over a toy and hit his head on the corner of the banister. I quickly grabbed him up and was holding him, still not understanding what exactly happened. I talked him into removing his hand from his forehead and I noticed blood. Uh oh. I then lifted his bangs up and saw the gash and knew he needed stitches. Instead of remaining calm, all this mommy saw was blood and a deep enough gash that I completely freaked out. I tried to lift him and take him into the kitchen so I could get something cold and wet to press against his head. But I fell with him in my arms against the wood floor. So graceful too (not!). Anyway, after I got up with him the second time, I got him into the kitchen and laid him on the counter and put a wet towel to his forehead. He was crying, I was crying and constantly saying "I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do." At this point, my brain had pretty much taken a lunch break and I was not thinking straight at all. I tried calling several family members and could not get ahold of anyone. And since Michael's cell phone was not working, I had no way of reaching him. I finally reached my father in law and through my sobs, he understood what I said and told me to call 911. I called and they were here in no time. All the time while this is going on, Bella is just walking around, playing, not really knowing what is going on.

The EMTs showed up and while they were evaluating him, they get another call on their radio that says there is a fire at the elementary school! I asked what the radio said, hoping I did not hear that correctly. They repeated what I thought I heard and I said (emotionaly losing it again), "My other son is there!" The poor EMTs were so nice and said, "The kids are fine, they are being evacuated."

One of the EMT's carried Bella out to the ambulance and strapped her into a kid harness type of seat and I carried Keenan out. So we all got to take a ride to Children's Hospital. Poor Keenan was scared, but so brave. He got strapped onto the bed and all his vitals were fine. On the way to the hospital the EMTs told me no hoses were needed for the fire so it meant everything was already out. (I later found out there was a small fire in the electrical room. The kids were transported to another school because the school lost power, but classes were back to normal today.)

They took him to Children's and he got 6 stitches. He did not cry at all while stitches were put in ... such a big boy! I knew I couldn't watch, so I sat down away from the bed, but Michael thought he could watch. He turned around about 1 minute later white as a ghost (his lips were even white!) and said he had to sit down. So it turns out that Keenan is braver than his mommy AND daddy.

Bella got to spend some quality time with her papaw and mamaw who had come to the hospital after my frantic call. I am hoping she doesn't think this a regular outing in our household.

I can laugh about it now, but boy oh boy what a day we started our week with!

Keenan being silly and showing off his battle wound.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pictures - Homecoming

Our first family of 5 picture!

Some of my best friends waiting for us to arrive at the airport.

Bella waving HI to America!

The boys waiting for us to arrive! (Aren't they just precious!)
Eating some good ole' mac-n-cheese in Detroit. Bella and Keenan playing with Nala (she is not too crazy about the grass touching her toes).
The boys and their silly daddy (I think it is supposed to some sort of armor on his head) being the 3 Musketeers.
Trying to be one of the boys ... she picked up the foam sword and went at it.
My three cuties on the swingset (I think Bella was about to fall asleep in the swing).


I hate it when I am following blogs and they don't update when they get home for what seems like forever. Sooooo, I thought I would get on here really quick to let everyone know that we have made it home safe and sound. We could not have asked for better travel with Isabella. She slept 10 of the 13 hours from Shanghai to Detroit and then napped briefly on the flight from Detroit to Cincinnati. Michael and I did not sleep much, but have been trying to catch up since we have been home. I don't have any pictures to post yet, but will post a bunch as soon as I can get them all together.
We were so surprised and so blessed to have so many family and friends to welcome us home at the airport. It was truly a blessing to have such a celebration. And it was SO GOOD to see our boys again!!!!!!!!! They have been awesome with Bella and she has loved exploring the house and getting to know her surroundings. We haven't made it in the pool yet because it was so cool yesterday, but she loves being outside on the deck and to also play on the swingset.
She slept in her own bed in her room by herself the first night from 9 pm until 6:45 am. We could not have asked for anything more and she slept in her bed all night again last night. We are soooo happy for this because that has meant sleep for us.
We are all feeling the jet lag, but at least we are getting some rest. We thank everyone for their prayers, love, gifts, and food as we have arrived home. We are so blessed to have her and so blessed to have such wonderful friends and family.

Pictures coming soon!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On her way to becoming a United States Citizen

Michael, Bella and now I am getting a very bad head cold. Michael is feeling a little better. I am starting to get the same symptoms and Bella’s fever is back. We are hoping and praying that we all get over the worst of it before we hop on the plane for the long flight home on Friday.
We got the rest of our shopping done today. There is a store here that sells items to benefit a specific orphanage and the items they sold were so unique and priceless. The store was started by an adoptive family and has sponsored many kids to get the medical procedures that they need. We met one of the families here that have adopted a child that this organization helped. We also went to a store that another family in our group told us about. The owner was such a blessing to meet. She asked us if we were Christians. We told her we were and the light went on in her eyes. She became so excited and showed me her Bible. Her Bible was in Chinese and has been read often (I could tell). She told us she had been a Christian for 5 years. China is a country whose official religion is atheism, but Maoism is probably the most practiced religion. She really helped me see how rare it is here. We take being a Christian, freely to be a Christian for granted. I can only hope that others will see the same light in my eyes as she has in hers.
This afternoon we did the famous Red Couch pictures with all of the new adopted kids and then with our whole group.

This is Bella in her silk dress.

These are all the kids from the provinces other than Beijing.

This is a picture of all the kids from the Beijing orphanage.

This is a picture of all the moms and their children in our group.

After the picture we went to the U.S. Consulate’s office to take the oath that the information we provided in our adoption paperwork is true. We received Isabella’s Visa to enter the United States. The director at the Consulate’s office was so sweet and she was truly thankful that we were all there adopting these children. We all raised our right hands and gave the oath … I became emotional, which I was not expecting. Isabella, on the other hand, slept through the whole thing. This was the last thing we had to do in China for Bella to be able to come home with us. Once we land in Detroit on U.S. soil and get her Visa stamped, Isabella will be a United States Citizen.
This will probably be the last post until after we are home. We leave for Shanghai tomorrow and then leave from there to Detroit early the next morning. We have several hours in Detroit and then will fly into Cincinnati shortly after 4 p.m. Friday afternoon. Family and friends are welcome to meet us at the airport. We are so excited and ready to be back home with our boys and for them to meet their sister. We are excited for family and friends to meet the newest Garland. There are other things we are excited for … sleeping together in our soft big bed (instead of sleeping in small twin beds), home cooked meals, to drink water out of the tap, to be able to brush our teeth using tap water, ice, salad, blue skies, fresh air and hugs from 2 little boys! We will miss all of our life long friends that we have met and shared this journey with, but we are so excited to come home. Thank you for all of your prayers and support while we have been on this journey. We have been truly blessed by all of the love from our family and friends. Please pray for safe travels, minimal jet lag, and health. USA … here we come!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Girl's Day

Isabella is feeling so much better today. She is back to her spunky self. Michael, on the other hand, is sick. He started on the antibiotic we brought and seems to be doing better tonight after a lot of rest today. So today became a girl’s day out. I took Isabella swimming this morning and she stayed in the pool for a good hour and a half … maybe even 2 hours! She took another amazing nap. While she and Michael napped, I went shopping with another mom in our group. We hired Ann of Red Thread to take us to the markets. Oh my gosh was this fun! Ann knew exactly where to go, did all the negotiating and saved us so much money. We bought pearls and jade and other beads. The markets are so neat to see. I thought Bella would be awake when I got back, but she was still napping! I had to wake the sleepy head up. I hope she sleeps tonight!
The heat is still oppressive, but this has been the prettiest day yet. Blue skies all day. Beautiful!
Because Michael needed to rest, Bella and I hit the playroom here and played with her new friend Della (although they don’t know they are friends yet). Bella and I went and ate another amazing Italian dinner with Della and her parents.
Today was our consulate appointment. This is the day that our whole trip in planned around. The funny thing is that we did not have to go anywhere. I guess I thought we had to go to the consulate and do something, but our guide took care of everything. Tomorrow we go to take the oath and get her visa.
This is a photo of the outside of our hotel.

Please pray that Michael gets better and that I don't get whatever it is! We are almost at the end of our hotel living - yay!!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

TB test is clear!

We have had another rough day. Isabella still is not feeling well and we also think she may be mourning. Her fever usually reappears after she has been sleeping.
She seemed to be doing better this morning, which was good because we had to go back to the medical exam office to get her TB test checked. Instead of taking us to a different room from where they stuck her, they took us back to the same room. The buckin’ bronco made her return debut and she threw a fit. All they had to do was look at her arm, but she did not know that. She screamed and tried to claw her way off of me. They checked her arm and everything is fine. Whew!
We then walked around a bit and actually saw a peak of sunshine. I don’t think we have seen sun since we have been in China. If we have, it has been short lived.
Since the TB test was clear, we were finally able to enjoy the gorgeous pool here. We bought her a pair of swimmies and she enjoyed it, but could not figure out how to keep her mouth closed while in the water and ended up drinking some of it. She also enjoyed watching some of the other kids playing in the water, but did not like it when she got splashed.

We rested in the room a lot today and she took another great nap. Unfortunately, she has gone back to not wanting Michael at all except if she is in the mood to horse play. (So this mommy is tired!) Please pray for us. Today has just been trying from all angles.
We are missing Aidan’s first day of school today and are praying he is having a wonderful one! We can’t wait to hear all about it.
We did go on a boat cruise tonight. The boat was beautiful and it was nice to feel the breeze off the water.

Here is a picture of our hotel at night from the water.

This is a picture of one of the many parks on the island.

Bella showing off her pretty flower in her hair (the flower actually came with our lunch).

Good night ... more tomorrow!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Spicy girl not feeling so well

Isabella did not sleep well last night and because she did not sleep well, neither did we. She woke up crying every 20 minutes or so. I kept checking her but she never felt warm. That is until around 6 a.m. when she woke up burning up with fever. We have given her medicine all day, but she still is not feeling well. Because of the rough night, we did not go to the Guangzhou Folk Art Museum as planned. We thought the heat and the touring might be too much for her. We hung out at the hotel instead and she took a very good and long nap.
We also have had our friends, Tim and Elise, visiting us today. They live in China and made the trip here to see us. It has been so nice hanging out with them. Michael took them to lunch at Lucy’s so they could get some good western food and they also went to dinner with us to an awesome Italian restaurant.
This island is known for weddings, so we got to see many many brides today. They all looked so beautiful. Most of them wore ivory dresses while some of them were in red, pink or burgundy dresses. (Alyssa – you would have loved seeing all the dresses.) We think so many weddings happened today because the Chinese believe that 8 (and therefore any multiples of 8) is a lucky number and today is August 16.

One funny thing that did happen today is that a Chinese man who could speak a little English approached us on the sidewalk. He asked Isabella if I (pointing to me) am her mother. She looked at him and shook her head no. When I got down beside her and told her yes, she smiled real big back at me. She does sometimes get yes and no head nods confused, but I think she was just being silly.
Another funny thing that keeps happening is that the locals who are very accustomed to seeing adoptive families ask us where she is from. When we tell them the Sichuan province, they always say, “Oh she a spicy girl!” That is because the Sichuan province is known for their very spicy food.
All in all we had a pretty low key day today because Bella has just not been feeling well. We all hope to get a good night’s sleep and feel better in the morning.

Here are just some other picures from our day.

A boat on the water in front of our hotel.

The waterfall in our hotel.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Medical exam – preview for many battles to come

We started our day bright and early. We got to eat at the breakfast bar (“spread” is more like it) that we have heard so much about. It was great! We had a table right next to the fish, so Isabella was in heaven.
After breakfast we went to the dreaded medical exam. It was an interesting event to say the least. She was fine playing until we had to go and get her checked out. She can put up a fight just like her oldest brother! Great thing she only weighs about 22 pounds right now. She had to get all of the basic measurements and checks done. She also had to get a TB skin test. She saw the needle coming from a mile away and boy did she know what that meant. She became a buckin’ bronco! We have to go get the skin test read in a couple of days, but in the meantime, we can’t take her in the pool. I really don’t understand why, but we will abide by the rules because we do not want to be here longer than we have to be. After the medical visit, we went with some other families to get some groceries and diapers … also some more bibs. This child drools all of the time. I think it is because of her cleft. The malls are interesting here because the grocery stores are 1 level of the mall. So you will have your typical department store, but with a grocery store in it as well.

Michael thought this was an interesting picture. The scaffolding is made of bamboo. No safety harnesses on this man.

The staring and the popularity is still here in Guangzhou, but it is not as bad because people here are more used to seeing adoptive families. Thank goodness! We have tried to learn to ignore it, but sometimes it can be a bit much. For instance, last night we were with another family talking and looking at the fish and the whole time there were 3 women behind us video taping us.
After our shopping excursion, we came back to the hotel to rest. Bella fought her nap, but eventually gave in. During her nap, Michael went to meet with our guide to make sure all of our paperwork is complete and accurate. Our guides have taken such good care of us and have gone above and beyond to help us.
This evening we all went out to dinner to eat at Lucy’s. It is so much fun to see all of the parents and their children. It is so amazing to see how each child fits perfectly with their family. God is pretty amazing that way!

Michael snuck this outfit on her after her bath to tease me. This is her cheesy smile. I have to admit, it looks pretty cute on her.

We did a little shopping and bought the famous squeaky shoes (and yes you can remove the squeakers!). Little miss sassy loves stomping around in them. We also got some silk dresses. Everything is so cheap! The store owner wrote Isabella’s name out in Chinese characters for her – so neat to have.
We met with some other families in one of the rooms tonight and had some worship time. We are so blessed to be on this journey with so many wonderful and faithful families. I will end this by asking to please pray for a couple of the families that we are with who are having communication and attachment struggles with their children. Most of the children are doing amazingly well while a couple are still in mourning for the only way of life that they have ever known. I think we sometimes forget how hard this is not only for us as parents, but how difficult it is for these children.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Welcome to the Emotional Rollercoaster

We did not post yesterday because we had a very busy and emotional day. Yesterday (Thursday) we started out at the Panda park. We got to see giant pandas and red pandas. The giant pandas were active climbing all over each other. It was sooo very hot and humid, so we were glad the park was not a big place.
Once we left the park, we went and spent the rest of the day with Bella’s foster family at their home. They had some friends over for a cookout, friends that have been a part of Bella’s life and who helped her be placed in foster care. We have learned so much about Bella’s life and we have forever family and friends. Bella spent the day with her foster siblings playing and just relishing in her time with them. It was a very emotional day and one of the hardest goodbye’s we have ever had to say. I can’t express how grateful we are to them and how much we love this family. As I have said before, they are angels on earth. They nursed Isabella back to life … they gave her a chance to live and thrive. When we left, Isabella cried and did not want to leave, but as soon as we got in the cab back to the hotel she cuddled up in my arms and fell asleep. We will never let her forget her first family and we hope to visit with them when they come to the States.
Today we had to pack up and get ready to go to Guangzhou. The Sichuan province (Chengdu is the capital of the province) is where Bella was born and has always lived, so leaving this place is significant even though she does not realize this. As far as we know this is the first flight she has taken since she had her heart surgery almost 2 years ago. She seemed a little apprehensive during takeoff, but as soon as we were in the air she laid down on my lap and fell asleep. She slept through the entire flight and even during the landing. The hotel had someone at the airport with our names on a poster waiting for us. We rode to the hotel with another adoptive family. Everyone has said that once they get to Guangzhou, everything seems to fall into place. And now I know what they mean! We are staying at the White Swan on Shamian Island and it is the prettiest place we have been since being in China. The island reminds me of Savannah, Georgia … big trees with some type of moss in them and palm trees, lots of green parks, beautiful sidewalks and water. We are staying right on the water and the hotel is just gorgeous! There is a big waterfall and huge fish (Bella LOVES the fish.!!! She goes right for them.) There is also 2 wonderful pools here. I wish the boys could see this place. They would love it.
Bella has really gotten close to her daddy tonight. So far she has not let me out of her sight without screaming. She won’t let daddy push her in the stroller without throwing a fit and she won’t let him carry her unless I am right beside her. BUT tonight they have wrestled (because she has to fit in with the boys you know) and played and went to see the fish. (If anyone wants a key to this little girl’s heart, buy her a real fish. Ha!) We figure she will love going to our neighbor’s to see the fish … although we may never get her away from them.
We went to eat at Lucy’s – a well known restaurant for adoptive families because it serves great Western food. Bella loved the sweet tea and spaghetti we got. She has really taken off eating for us and will try anything. (You hear that Aidan? She will try anything! HaHa)

We have been able to meet up with some of the families and their children now that we are all back in the same place. So neat to see how wonderfully God has matched these children with their parents. Can't wait to meet the rest tomorrow!